Can You Remove A Basement Bulkhead? [Plus 4 Basement Bulkhead Alternatives]

Bulkhead doors give you convenient access to your basement. They also function as a form of egress which is required in building codes. But over time, they can acquire damage or become too unsightly. In that case, can you remove them? What other alternatives are there if you don't want traditional bulkhead doors anymore? We've conducted thorough research to give you the answers you're looking for.

Removing bulkhead doors is legal in some states, as long as the minimum requirement of having proper drainage is met. In some states, doing this is against the building code. Make sure to check your local building codes before proceeding with the removal of your basement bulkhead.

In case you want to remove it, there are fortunately some alternatives to bulkhead doors, such as:

  1. Egress windows
  2. Clamshell doors
  3. Open stairway & ladder
  4. Deck hatch
  5. DIY door

Keep reading as we go into the details of this topic! We'll give you a step-by-step guideline on how to remove your basement bulkhead doors, give you bulkhead alternatives to choose from, and answer other related queries.

A basement bulkhead doors on the side of building, Can You Remove A Basement Bulkhead? [Plus 4 Basement Bulkhead Alternatives]

How To Remove Basement Bulkhead Doors

Removing your basement bulkhead doors is the first step towards replacing them with new doors or with an alternative. Luckily, it only takes a few steps with the right tools.

Remember that you will need to put in a replacement as soon as possible to protect your basement from outside elements and to keep your house in compliance with your local building code.

Keep in mind as well that removing your bulkhead doors will affect the ceiling and walls of your basement, so it's best to consult with professionals during the removal process or have them remove it. Also, before removing the bulkhead doors, check to see if it is concealing pipes or electrical wiring first.

Here are the steps to remove your basement bulkhead doors:

  1. Use a right-angle grinder to cut through the hinges of the bulkhead doors.
  2. Grind off the screw heads on the brackets that connect the doors to the foundation.
  3. Take out the metal frame of the door.
  4. Locate the header at the top of the opening, then remove it.
  5. Keep the current flashing intact to use later.
  6. Dig out old caulking.
  7. Caulk gaps in the walls and between the foundation and sill plate.

After this, you can put in your replacement doors. You will need the following tools for this task:

  • Flat pry bar
  • Circular saw
  • Cordless drill
  • Hammer drill
  • Caulk gun
  • Mixing paddle
  • Silicone sealant
  • Layout square
  • Trowel
  • Utility knife
  • Bucket
  • Paint brush

Find out how to put in new bulkhead doors by watching this video from This Old House:

4 Alternatives to Basement Bulkhead Doors

Bulkhead doors are essential for giving you an entryway to your basement and an exit in emergencies. They also protect your basement from damage due to harsh weather and from pests and rodents.

However, you may not want the same old bulkhead doors for your basement. After all, they're not the most aesthetically pleasing option and can get in the way of your otherwise pristine yard. But are there any other options that can function like traditional bulkhead doors?

Yes! You can choose from some alternatives that comply with your local building code while providing a welcome upgrade from bulkhead doors. Make sure to go with an option that suits your tastes, needs, and budget.

It's also important to know how much work is involved in each project so you know whether the time and effort are worth it for you.

Here are four of the best alternatives to basement bulkhead doors:

1. Egress window

Instead of doors, you can install an egress window that is sure to satisfy egress requirements. Its size allows you to escape through it during an emergency but does not take up as much space in your yard as bulkhead doors.

An added bonus is that a window also introduces more natural light into your basement, making it feel cozier and look more pleasing to the eye.

The good news is you can install an egress window in your basement on your own! However, you'll need a lot of tools and advanced carpentry skills to do it successfully.

You can also install a window well to maximize the use and spruce up the look of your egress window. Not only will it brighten up the interior of your basement, but it will also help protect your home from water damage. Plus, you can decorate it with small plants or ornaments.

2. Clamshell doors

Made from fiberglass and constructed with sailing technology, clamshell doors make a sophisticated alternative to traditional bulkhead doors. It opens and closes like its namesake with smooth, quiet movements.

Installation of these doors is easier and simpler than that of conventional bulkhead doors.

Better yet, they're designed to last long and protect your basement from moisture and harsh weather, especially heavy rains and high humidity. They're also resistant to rust, so you won't have to worry about replacing them often.

The downside of clamshell doors is that they can be quite expensive. They can cost anywhere from $1,550 to $1,900.

3. DIY door

If you're reluctant to replace your bulkhead basement doors because of their price, the good news is you can build and install them yourself! It's an achievable task that you can accomplish, especially if you already have experience with this type of DIY project.

Not only is it more affordable, but it also means you can customize the choice of wood, color, and other factors according to your preference.

However, this task can take up a lot of your time. It will also be challenging for those who haven't built anything like this before.

But this is a good way to save money and introduce yourself to home construction projects, so it might be worth a try if you can spare the time. Of course, if you're unsure about your ability to finish it successfully, it's best to leave the job to professionals.

4. Deck hatch

A deck hatch gives you access to your stairwell while providing extra deck space. It can be built into your home design or added to your existing deck. 

The design for this bulkhead alternative can give you an added sense of security, since it blends into your deck so it's hidden from plain sight. You can enjoy having private access to your basement with a locked, concealed deck hatch. 

Deck hatches are also fairly easy to find. However, you might need to have them professionally installed which can be quite costly. 

When should a bulkhead be replaced?

A basement bulkhead storm door

It's important to evaluate your bulkhead for signs of damage at least once every five years. Signs that your bulkhead needs replacing include:

  • Rust buildup and corrosion in steel doors
  • Rotten wood in wooden doors
  • Doors no longer latch
  • Water leakage
  • Mold and mildew

Once you notice any of these signs, it's important to have your bulkhead doors replaced as soon as possible. Otherwise, it could lead to more damage that could compromise the structure of your home and cost more in the long run.

How much does it cost to replace a basement bulkhead?

Basement bulkhead doors on side of library

The cost of replacing your basement bulkhead doors will depend on the type of material used and the level of work involved in installing the new doors. The average cost of a bulkhead replacement job ranges from $500 to $1,600. This amount doesn't cover costs for installation and removal.

In Closing

Whether your basement bulkhead doors can be removed depends on your local building code. Removing bulkhead doors is a doable task that you can accomplish on your own, but it's best to have professionals do the job for you.

Remember to replace old bulkhead doors in poor condition as soon as possible to prevent further damage. If you don't want to replace your old traditional bulkhead doors with new ones, you can explore other alternatives that suit your needs and preferences.

If you liked this article, we've got a few more that could pique your interest! Check out these great posts:

How To Seal Basement Door [Including Bulkhead Doors]

How To Measure For A Bilco Basement Door

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